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The Guru

When I hear the word guru I imagine a mystical yogi with a shaved head from a faraway land. A place of hazy mountains and smoky pyres, exotic spices and fragrant mangoes, colors wild and exuberant. A man swathed in apricot robes of cotton and silk and veiled in mystery and magic, But what is a guru exactly? Nothing but a spiritual teacher. Recently I’ve been drawn to the teachings of Ram Dass, Pema Chodron and Michael Singer. Each of them stepped out of a traditional existence to embark on an all-encompassing spiritual quest...basically just to get less neurotic. Sign me up, please.

Michael Singer, far from fitting my guru image, is a mathematician and software programmer who lives in not-so-exotic inland Florida. In one of his recent lectures he challenged us, his audience, to wake up in the morning and say "Oh Goody!" Yes, "Oh Goody!” “How lucky am I to be able to experience this day NO MATTER WHAT it throws at me? I'm going to enjoy it all! Every single second. I just can't wait to get out of bed and start living this day in all its glory. Oh Goody, Goody, Goody."

Now I'm not sure about the rest of y'all but my first thought in the morning is not "Oh Goody." Not at all. It's more like "Ugh" or "Eek" or "Why me?" Yes, why me? But these thoughts were much worse before I stopped drinking. Back then my waking thoughts were more like "I can’t believe I did it again." What exactly did the "it" that I did again look like this time? And the classic "I wish I was dead". So in comparison, waking up with an "Ugh" or "Eek, another day" thought doesn’t seem that bad.

Why should we wake up and say Oh Goody? Because, according to Mr. Singer, our time on earth is so very fleeting. We are each one of 7.674 billion people on this planet. The sun could fit a million earths inside of it and the sun isn’t even that big; on a stellar scale it's "average" size. There are over 125 billion observable galaxies and everything in space is expanding exponentially. Mind blown. We are specks of dust spinning around on a planet in the middle of infinity. Why not enjoy the brief time we have? I could spend my paltry 80 years or so here complaining and neurotic. "I can't believe he/she said that." "I can't believe he/she did that." "If I were them I never would have done that." "What kind of a person does that?" "My boss/ wife/ husband/ partner/ family/ friends/ co-workers/ kids etc. are not behaving the way I want them to." "If I was five inches taller/shorter..." "If I was five years older/younger..." "If I made more money..." "If I had more stuff..." "It better not rain." "It better rain." "I wonder what they think of me?" "How dare they?" "If only I had/hadn’t..." "If I can't have them I'll die." "If I have to stay with them I'll die." "I coulda, shoulda, woulda..." ad infinitum. Any one of us could drop dead tomorrow. Nobody knows what our futures hold. But there is one thing I know for sure. No one here gets out alive. Do I really want my last thought on earth to be "If I could only lose these last 10 pounds”?

So I'm listening to Michael Singer and I'm trying this "Oh Goody" thing and it's not easy. Or at least it wasn’t easy until I got a dog. A sweet little King Charles Cavalier named, humbly enough, H.R.H. The Duchess. I adore this dog and during Covid, when I was forced to work from home, we became inseparable. She shadows me everywhere and I love it. But The Duchess is getting on in years. She's completely deaf and seems to be losing her eyesight. She has hip dysplasia and is missing a few teeth. She's beginning to have trouble going up and down stairs. But every single morning NO MATTER WHAT The Duchess greats me with a tail wag. The second she sees me her "Oh Goody" tail wags start. Even before she is upright and standing on her creaky old legs it starts. Lying down on her side like a fish on a pier, gazing up at me with one eye, the tail just starts up. Thump thump thump thump thump. In pain from her arthritis or grumpy at the cats for stealing her dog just doesn’t matter to her. She wakes up and she is happy. Happy to see me. Happy to have another day. Happy to have her breakfast and to get a pat on the head. Happy to lay in the sun or watch the rain. Happy just to BE.

I still have a long way to go. It's a struggle for me to wake up and be happy, to greet the day with boundless enthusiasm. I don't think I was wired that way. In fact I know I wasn’t. But through the teachings of all my gurus, especially my sweet little pup, I'm learning. It's taking longer than I would like to wake up with the "Oh Goody" attitude that Michael Singer talks about. But recently I am starting each morning with less fear and anxiety and with more acceptance of the day ahead and the faith that I am in the care of my Higher Power. With a small prayer of gratitude and a deep breath I now start the day not by wanting to crawl back under the covers and hide, but with an “Okay, world, let's do this!" mantra, secure in the knowledge that no matter what happens today, in the long run I am going to be just fine.


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